The Ethics Of… The War on Christmas

It’s that time of year again, and as always it seems like we can’t just gear up to celebrate the birth of our favourite socialist pacifist hippy without everyone getting their knickers in a twist. For a guy whose major message to the world was ‘love everybody’ with ‘stop being dicks’ as the small print, it’s amazing how angry everyone manages to get in the weeks coming up to his birthday.

For those of us who spend the month of December in a frantic orgy of shopping, cooking and cleaning, culminating in a solid week of gluttony, drunkenness and consumption, the silly season’s controversies might pass by unnoticed. But spare a thought for those bogged down in the deadly trenches each year, fighting hard for your right to celebrate this wonderful holiday as God intended! Welcome to the War on Christmas.

This conflict has raged, seasonally, for decades now and shows no sign of stopping. In the blue corner we have a ragged alliance of hardcore atheists, greedy retailers and politically-correct lefties, determined to undermine and water-down this great Christian tradition into a meaningless holiday celebrating nothing but consumerism and greed. And in the red corner we have those that fight to “keep Chirst in Christmas!”, insisting that Jesus is the Reason for the Season and that any efforts to diminish, ignore or destroy this sacred truth must be resisted at all costs.

Many and bloody have been the clashes of these two great ideological forces, as the anti-Christmas conspiracy making its attacks and the pro-Christmas crusade mans the walls and throws them back. It started small when the phrases ‘Happy Holidays’ and ‘Xmas’ started to creep into common usage, both clearly forsaking Christ in the name of political correctness. Then there were challenges about the tastefulness and even legality of Christmas celebrations in public buildings, what with the whole ‘separation of church and state’ thing western democracies seem so keen on.

Emboldened by these victories the anti-Christmas cabal struck deeper with retailers removing decorations from their stores, selling abominations like ‘Holiday trees’ and ‘Family trees’ right under the nose of Saint Nick himself, and even questioning the morality of lying to your children about a jolly fat man who breaks into the house. And just when the violation couldn’t seem any more complete the thought police did the unforgivable – they tried to get the good old fashioned school nativity play banned. This beloved childhood tradition, participated in by generation after generation of children dressed up in robes, fake beards and unconvincing animal costumes, bumbling their way through a ritual they barely understand for the entertainment of their parents? Banned. All to please some joy-hating, Christmas destroying busybodies.

It’s all fun and games until that camel gets bored and tries to eat baby jesus. Or possibly an entire child.

More recent battle grounds include the Starbucks famously bowing to anti-Christmas demands this year and only releasing a blank red cup, instead of their usual Christmas-themed offering. Starbucks claimed this was still Christmas themed and simply a blank slate for customers, but the pro-Christmas factions were having none of that declaring it just another example of the creeping destruction of Christmas.

In Australia, generally far less involved in this specific conflict, great drama is unfolding in the suburb of Pascoe Vale where an elected Member of Parliament has installed a nativity scene in her office window featuring a black baby Jesus. Outrage has ensued with one resident in particular declaring that using the black baby was “changing what Jesus was”, followed by the usual social media idiot-fest elements of both the pro and anti-Christmas movements piling on in furious indignation.

And in one particularly gratuitous war-crime this year by anti-Christmas commandos, a Cincinnati couple has constructed a zombie-themed Nativity scene right in their front yard. Naturally this has horrified pro-Christmas forces, who took the dire step of dropping an informative pamphlet at the site which states that “God frowns upon this manger scene,” and that “Jesus has supreme power over death and evil; he is not a zombie.”

Outrageous. Everyone knows that Jesus is a Lich.

For those of us who have sat out this war from the sidelines the entire thing may appear a grand storm in a teacup; why does anyone care what other people are doing on the 25th of December? So long as the supermarket doesn’t start playing carols in the middle of October, do whatever you want. But from a Christian perspective – and it’s worth noting that 61.1% of Australians personally identify as Christian – surely this ongoing assault against Christmas is the vilest form of insult? Here we have a celebration of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who sacrificed his life so that we might live forever. A one-a-year event dedicated to peace, joy and goodwill on earth that annually brings happiness and love to millions around the world. A grand timeless tradition rich with memories of generations – the one day every year where people put an honest effort into actually living up to the example of Christ, can the snarkiness and do their best to be nice to each other.

And here come a bunch of self-centred whiners who want to destroy this wonderful event by watering it down, perverting its messages and outright ban its most sacred elements until all that’s left is an empty, joyless husk of an occasion. What is Christmas without Christ? Just the orgy of gluttony, consumption and anxiety I joked about before. An arbitrary date where people meet their families, buy them crap they don’t need, eat far too much and don’t reflect for a second on what’s important in the world, how they could improve themselves, or care for the less fortunate.

No! For any Christian of upstanding citizen of any nation, this sort of moral rot cannot be allowed to go unchecked! If we let the PC police strip the values out of everything just in case it upsets some minorities then where will it end? Why should the atheists be allowed to ruin our celebrations just because they don’t like them? And is the world not obsessed enough with money and material desires that we can’t keep this one sacred event pure from such greed? For crying out loud, Jesus specifically stated that rich people will not enter heaven and we’ve turned his very birthday into a celebration of material riches? For shame!

But let’s dial back the outrage for a second and reassess this topic – are things really how they appear? We’re told that there is a War on Christmas, that anti-Christian groups are lobbying to remove any aspect of Christ from the holiday, basically stripping it of all meaning. But let’s just take a look at those claims in detail;

First of all there is the claim that Christmas decorations are being banned in public buildings due to the whole ‘church and state separation’ thing. Well we already know that’s not true in Australia since an MP set up a nativity scene in her office window, but what about the frontline of this war? Surely if anyone was going to be banning decorations it would be the lefty in the Whitehou…

Huh. That’s a really REALLY big tree.

Ok so there doesn’t seem to be much of a problem with Christmas decorations being banned (or even being slightly subtle apparently), but what about the minority groups? We know for a fact that Christmas has been banned in many places in case other religious groups get offended! Just another example of political correctness ruining things for everyon… what’s that? It’s just a few fringe nutters that in no way represent those communities? Muslims, Jews, Hindus and literally every other faith group doesn’t give the smallest of shits that we celebrate Christmas in front of them? In fact they kind of get into it even if it’s not their personal beliefs? Huh.

Well that just makes it worse, doesn’t it? If the minorities doesn’t care about it then why are events like school nativity plays being banned at all? It’s a pure and simple attack on the Christian faith is what it i… what? Nativity plays and other Christmas celebrations have never actually been banned at all in Australia? Search around all you like, you’ll find claims of bans everywhere but surprisingly few examples. Best I could turn up was a story from 2011 where the lyrics of “We wish you a merry Chirstmas” was changed to “Happy Holidays” – not exactly the all-out assault on Christian values you’d expect given the outrage.

There are indeed examples of nativity scenes being banned in the USA, on the grounds that religious celebrations in a public schools is unconstitutional, but the school got around that in short order by using mannequins instead of live people. Again, not exactly the blistering destruction of the holiday we’ve been lead to believe is underway. I wonder where all these news stories keep coming from then?

Yeah, sounds about right.

But all of these are just the symptoms of the greater problem, right? The ongoing attempt to remove Christ from Christmas and turn the celebration into something meaningless – all part of the ongoing attack against Christian values as a whole. And right here we strike something interesting.

Have you ever sat back and thoughts hard about Christmas? Sure there’s the various rituals, the decorations, the gifts and so forth, but what about the values that the pro-Christmas groups are so eager to preserve. Seriously, take a step back and Christmas comes into a totally new light. It’s a state-mandated religious event, exclusively based on the values of the Christian religion. For nearly two months every year it permeates everything you do from your place of work, to your government, to the shops, the entertainment, to your children’s school work. And it is an event dedicated to promoting one specific religious tradition as solid fact, a tradition that includes an immaculate conception, a living god who will save us from our sins (of which there are quite a long list), and who will subsequently go on to die horribly for this purpose.

Imagine if this event was instituted today and promoted the religious tradition of different religion entirely; constantly celebrating their beliefs as fact, encouraging people to sing songs that do the same, hanging their iconography all over the place and even infiltrating schools to incorporate their values into schoolwork.

Bringing up some entitled little buggers right here, I tell you what.

The whole event would die out almost instantly, and if members of that religious tried to force it upon us we’d have riots in the streets within hours. Why? Because they’re trying to force their values down our throats, that’s why, and we don’t necessarily agree with those values.

So why do we not only tolerate Christmas, but embrace it quite eagerly? Well tradition certainly is a part of it, but I think there is a more significant factor at work: because it’s already been neutered of most of its meaning. Yup, the same thing that the ‘Keep Christ in Christmas’ movements are fighting so hard against is likely the only reason that Christmas has survived at all; the Christian values tied to it have become entirely optional. And if Christian groups knew what is good for them, then they’d accept this fact and quit the complaining.

See the problem with pushing to bring the values back into Christmas is that you are now actively saying that other people, people who otherwise would not have, should be adopting your values as well. And the second you start saying that other people should adopt and celebrate your values then you just opened those values up to a very important question: are your values any good, and can you prove it? And guess what kids? That’s not something that religion has a very strong track record on.

And this is being very, very, VERY nice about it folks.

This is not to say that Christianity doesn’t have some solid, justifiable ethics to it – indeed it has some great ones that we could do well to follow – but the claim that everybody should celebrate Christmas the Christian way is playing with a fire that religious folk should probably leave alone. In the meantime, I’d be content with the fact that your religion still manages to get international attention for a month every year and not try to tell everyone else what to do during our holidays. You have the freedom to celebrate Christmas religiously this year, just as the rest of us have the freedom to spend it spending time with friends, family and some sweet new worldly possessions. It may sometimes feel like this is a slap in the face to your religion, but in reality it’s the tactful tolerance of different beliefs – a tolerance we would all do well not to break.

Happy Holidays.

6 thoughts on “The Ethics Of… The War on Christmas

  1. A good writeup, thanks.

    It seems that the ‘Keep Christ in Christmas’ group are fighting the wrong battle. It’s ideas connected to the commercial imperative that have been steadily eroding the Christian message. Ironically, drawing our attention to the moral emptiness that lies behind so much of the consumptive habits we’ve all developed is far more likely to resonate with the kind of people that the ‘Keep Christ in Christmas’ people would like to reach. (I know you wanted to pursue a different line of argument, however.)

    • Hi CMU, thanks for the comment! Glad you enjoyed it.
      Good point, I agree. I have a lot of sympathy for the ‘the holiday has been perverted by consumption’ aspect of the argument just as you say. Consumerism is an interesting topic in itself and I’ll have a crack at this this time next year I think!

  2. Just wanted to point out that despite people often claiming that the term “Xmas” was created by politically correct secularists it has been in use since the sixteenth century. The letter x is the first letter of Jesus when written in Greek.

    • Very true! Thanks for pointing that out Calum. Meant to mention that along with the whole ‘Jesus wasnt born in December’ thing but sort of ran out of space

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